Since my public appearances are over for the year, I thought I’d invite you into the back stage area of Yuricon, so you can see just what kinds of nonsense go into making something like this work.
We’ll begin your tour with a Brief History of Yuricon– it’s a nice little bitchy story, you’ll like it.
The story begins in 2000, when I came out of a 15-year long avoidance of all things “fannish” after a horrific sci-fi convention experience. The guests were cool, but the the fans were just appalling and I didn’t want to have anything to do with them. I made an interim skirmish into a different fandom and found the same thing. (In retrospect, I realize now that these two conventions were run by the same organization and that may have had *something* to do with it…) I went, under duress, to Otakon 2000 and found it to be rather less horrible than I supposed. Anime fans were, for some reason, less heinous than other fans as a whole.
In 2001, I volunteered to work Security for a convention. (The con will remain nameless, obviously. Let me state for the record that I have a very good relationship now with this con and am pleased to help them out whenever I can.) The con went well, I had fun, and at the end I was asked to be on the organizing committee. When the Con Chair asked what we all wanted to see more of, I, jokingly but typically, replied “more girl/girl stuff.” To my surprise, this comment was met with a reaction that I couldn’t help but perceive as mild homophobia. (Let me digress for a second – I am SO the last person in the world to scream “bigot!” at anyone. In my life I’ve never experienced more than very mild prejudice and frankly, I figure most of that is my problem, not the other person’s. I can deal with it. This surprised me because of the context – not the content.) Anyway, after a short, pointless discussion about the potential audience for shoujoai at the con, I decided I was beating my head against the wall.
I hadn’t expected that kid of reaction, really, with the obsession about boy/boy stuff that was just beginning to peak here in the West, and was embraced by this particular con…but I’m not the kind of person to argue a lost cause – I just go off and do what I want, anyway. In this case, I built a website. I called it AniLesboCon after the convention for anime lesbians that Juri from Utena was running in Dreiser’s hysterical Scenes From an Elevator spamfic. I asked her if I could use the name, she said yes and we were off!
At first, I genuinely assumed that this would remain an online or “virtual” con. I built the website with an eye to creating a community online, rather than a real event, because, as I saw it, this was just me being pissy anyway – how many other people would be interested? I ran a few contests, built a mailing list, started “The List” and polls, to give the site a little interaction with the fans. And I promoted it. Everywhere I could find. People either found it condescendingly amusing or were afraid of it, but the folks that joined up thought it hysterical – and those were the people I wanted. To my amazement, a bunch of other disenfranchised g/l/b/t anime fans joined the list, all excited about a place where they were welcome and not just a fringe part of the fringe. And I realized that I had a great vehicle here – something that could really make a difference to a few people. I’m not interested in changing the world – but if I do, then fine. :-)
ALC remained “virtual” for about 6 months, when I received an email from a very enthusiastic Kathryn Williams, a shoujoai mangaka from Toronto. She basically said, “let’s make it real” and, for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a good reason to not try. So that was that. ALC was going to grow up and become a “real” convention.
My little fit of pique was growing up…
Next time: Making it “real”